True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 180
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180 TRUE STORIES OF OLD
some cause for the existence of so much latent pugnacity, such
dogged persistency, when once the "warpath" is taken, and,
above all, for the reckless daring and coolness of the men when
I have thought over the matter and concluded that it is all
a question of heredity. It was born in them and they can't help
it. My reason for saying this is that I know something of their
fathers and grandfathers. In early days that section was settled
by some of the best, most prominent and influential families
who came to Texas.
Conflicting interests, political differences and other causes
led to individual quarrels and difficulties; personal friends and
relatives took sides and soon there were fueds that resulted
in bloody conflict. The fights were always many fights-the
stand up, give and take kind. Such a thing as an assassination
was almost unknown and when one occasionally occurred ten
to one both the assassin and his victim belonged to the lowest
order of criminals. The genuine feuds frowned on the work of
an assassin and when a Brown or two were killed by a Smith
or two there was no effort made to conceal the fact. It was
done in the open and everybody knew how, why and when it
In those days there was a powerful and influential planter
living near Hempstead-Colonel Kirby. There was also another
man there who less prominent in social and financial circles,
but one possessed of strong character, personal bravery and
other admirable qualities that enable a man to establish himself
anywhere as a man. This latter was Captain John Steel, a
hero of San Jacinto. He had a farm which he and his son cultivated.
For some cause Steel and Kirby quarreled. Kirby had
a hundred friends where Steel had one, but that made no difference
to Steel, who would not yield an inch. Kirby ordered
Steel to leave the country, while Steel flatly refused to go. Some
of Kirby's friends caught ydung Steel one night and just for fun
made out they were going to hang him. They did not hurt him,
but turned him loose after scaring him badly. This enraged
Captain Steel and he sent word to Colonel Kirby that he was
going to kill him on sight. Colonel Kirby treated the message
with contempt and sent back word to Steel that he was going to
treat him as a common criminal and that if ha (Steel) were
found in Waller County by midnight the next night he was going
to have him hanged to the first tree he could find. That settled
it. It was no longer a matter between two men, but was one
of a single man against a dozen or more. Steel knew Kirby
would do exactly what he said he would do. So he acted with
discretion and left for Houston at once. He had to sacrifice his
home and everything to save his life,. but he did so, bearing in
mind all the time that some day he Would be able to square
his account with Kirby.
Steel remained in Houston until the close of the war. The
army of occupation came in and everything was under semi-
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Young, Samuel Oliver. True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young., book, 1913; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24646/m1/180/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .